Carla Bley, Gregory Porter, Frank Zappa & More: The Week in Jazz

The Week in Jazz is your roundup of new and noteworthy stories from the jazz world. It’s a one-stop destination for the music news you need to know. Let’s take it from the top.

Jazz School: Education News

Mental Wellness Focus at 2020 NYC Winter Jazzfest: The 2020 NYC Winter Jazzfest (January 10-12) will address the ever-rising struggle in the music industry surrounding issues of mental health, substance misuse and overall mental wellness via a program of talks and panel discussions. The program will also include a special show entitled “Revive Yo Feelings” featuring pianist Robert Glasper to benefit Jazz Foundation of America and MusiCares. Festival founder Brice Rosenbloom remarked, “At Winter Jazzfest we aim to nurture an environment that is inclusive, welcoming, respectful and supportive to artists and audiences no matter what chapter of life they are experiencing.”


John Ellis to Release New Jazz Opera: Acclaimed saxophonist/composer John Ellis is set to release an epic narrative song cycle with a libretto by playwright Andy Bragen. The Ice Siren is an hour-long, through-composed “jazz opera” performed by an eleven-piece ensemble, with vocalists Miles Griffith and Gretchen Parlato in the leading roles. Its story is about a man in mourning venturing into the crypt of his lost love. The Ice Siren is due out March 20 via Parade Light Records.

Blue Note Shares Video About Tone Poet Vinyl Series: Blue Note Records has shared a video about its Tone Poet Audiophile Vinyl Reissue Series, launched in honor of the legendary label’s 80th anniversary. The series is produced by “Tone Poet” Joe Harley, co-founder and co-producer of the acclaimed Music Matters audiophile vinyl series. Titles of the series were handpicked by Harley and cover lesser-known Blue Note classics, including albums by Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea, Cassandra Wilson, Gil Evans, Lee Morgan and Sam Rivers, among others. Each of these releases is mastered from the original tapes and comes in deluxe gatefold packaging.

Emil Richards Dies: Famed percussionist/vibraphonist and L.A. session player Emil Richards died on December 13, aged 87. Throughout his career, Richards collaborated with countless great artists, including Frank Zappa, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Nat King Cole, Stan Kenton, Sam Cooke and Marvin Gaye. He was also the finger-snapper on Vic Mizzy’s theme song for The Addams Family and the xylophonist of The Simpsons‘ opening tune for Danny Elfman.

Carla Bley to Release New Trio Album: Pianist/composer Carla Bley is set to release a new album with her longtime trio featuring bassist Steve Swallow and saxophonist Andy Sheppard. The album is titled Life Goes On and it takes the form of three suites. It was recorded in the Auditorio Stelio Molo Studio in Lugano, Switzerland, and is produced by Manfred Eicher. Life Goes On is due out February 14 via ECM Records – the German label that released the group’s previous efforts Trios (2013) and Andando el Tiempo (2016).

Qwest TV to Launch on Amazon Fire TV: Music legend Quincy Jones has announced that Qwest TV will be launching on Amazon Fire TV in 2020. Qwest TV is the world’s first subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) platform dedicated to jazz and related music forms, which was founded by Jones in collaboration with French jazz impresario and television producer Reza Ackbaraly. Qwest TV is currently available in 50 countries and a specifically curated version of the SVOD was launched in Japan on December 15.

Lynn Cardona Releases New EP: Contemporary jazz and soul singer/songwriter Lynn Cardona has released a new EP, Ophelia. The EP features three brand new original tracks exploring various kinds of love and inspired by her own personal experiences. “I want my music to convey the nuances of the experiences I’ve had. I want listeners to feel that they can relate to me on the deepest level,” she says via a press release. Ophelia features Cardona alongside guitarists Doni Amarilio and Nozomi Yamaguchi, pianist Josh Nelson, bassist Dave Robaire, drummer Dan Schnelle, flugelhorn player Michael Hunter.

Gregory Porter Releases “The Christmas Song” as Standalone Single: Vocalist Gregory Porter has released his take on “The Christmas Song” as a standalone single. The track originally appeared on Porter’s Nat King Cole & Me album, which was released in October 2017 via 2017. The track is available now and comes with an accompanying video of Porter’s live performance of the song filmed at the Coal Exchange in Cardiff, UK, for the singer’s 2018 BBC Christmas Special.

The Gig: Live Music & More

Lenny White Celebrates 70th Birthday at NYC’s JazzCafe: On January 3, drummer Lenny White will celebrate his 70th birthday with a special concert at Brooklyn’s Made in New York Jazz Cafe&Bar. On this date, he will be joined by bassist Christian McBride and pianist Christian Sands for a night of great music. This will be the first of a number of shows White is set to perform at Made in New York Jazz Cafe&Bar throughout the month of January. Lineups for these additional shows will be announced soon.

New Release Cheat Sheet

Frank Zappa, The Hot Rats Sessions (Zappa Records/UMe)

Zappa Records/UMe release today a 6xCD boxed set celebrating the 50th anniversary of Frank Zappa’s groundbreaking debut as a leader, Hot Rats. The Hot Rats Sessions is an expansive new collection documenting and compiling every composition recorded during several days in July 1969, when Zappa recorded Hot Rats. The session birthed a wealth of material including songs and ideas that Zappa would use during his lifetime in various other projects. The Hot Rats Sessions comes with new liner notes, photos and other bonus materials, including a one-of-a-kind “Zappa Land” board game where fans are tasked with helping Frank get back to the studio to finish Hot Rats.

Julianna Barwick, Circumstance Synthesis (Milestone)

The concept of Julianna Barwick’s Circumstance Synthesis is to observe the shape of a day from a celestial vantage. Barwick is a composer known for her innovative use of electronic loops and this new project, commissioned by Sister City, finds her experimenting with a generative music technology developed by Microsoft AI that identified activity in the New York City skyline, which then helped shape the sonic landscape of the record. The result is a fascinating work of ambient music featuring five floating suites tracing morning through night.

Mal Waldron, Free at Last (ECM)

ECM released an extended edition vinyl of Mal Waldron’s landmark 1969 album, Free at Last, featuring the pianist leading a trio wit Isla Eckinger on double bass and Clarence Becton on drums. Free at Last was the first official release for the German label, and this special edition vinyl comes with remastered and revisited audio takes, texts and photos.“This album represents my meeting with free jazz,” Waldron wrote of Free at Last on the original liner notes. “Free jazz for me does not mean complete anarchy… You will hear me playing rhythmically instead of soloing on chord changes.”

Featured photo courtesy of ECM Records.

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